Friday, October 16, 2009

"I'm here for the grain....."

Locavore Journal: October 15, 2009

Picked up 2-50 lb bags of spring wheat from Allen at Lazy Acres farm
in Hadley. I was sent by Jonathan at Hungry Ghost in Northampton. My
job was to fetch wheat berries from last years growing experiment and
bring them back to the bakers. For my trouble I would get some local
wheat to make my own bread. The timing couldn't be better. The day
before I lost my source for local cornmeal. The guy over at Food Bank
who used to grind local corn for me on his bicycle was moving on to
greener pastures. Hello? This stuff is not available anywhere else.
The key to eating locally is to make your own bread whether it be corn
bread or wheat bread. Without that, being a locavore is no more a
matter of being a discerning shopper.

I stood next to my in the mud filled driveway of his house and waited
for Allen to come out. A tall guy with a felt hat, he walked very
slowly to my car and held up his hand in greeting. We gave each other
the once over. "I'm here for the grain," I said. "Stay here," he said
and strode over the to the barn and pulled a large board off the door.
It fell open. (So that's what those boards are for...) A boy stood
beyond the barn in front of a field of oats. Cover crop. The boy and I
gave each other the once over. The day was pretty gray but when Allen
came out of the barn carrying the sack, my mood improved. "That's
really it?" I said. This has been a long time coming, this local
wheat. "Yep," he said and tossed the sack in the back seat of my car,
seeds flying all over. I heard this crop was pretty good. Allen came
out with a second bag. I tried to take it from him to put into the car
myself but he shouldered past and tossed it in there, right next to
the other one. Another stream of grain. I asked him about the gluten
content. "Oh it's springy alright," said Allen. "It passed the chew
test really well." With the rain, the cool summer, the lack of sun and
the heretofore near impossible task of growing wheat in western Mass,
Allen's accomplishment is nothing short of a miracle.

Back at Hungry Ghost, one of the bakers was chewing away on a piece of
bread made from this very grain. This bakery is famous for its
opinionated help, wood fired stove, superior bread and flour all over
the place. The combination of the mud on my shoes from Allen's farm
and the flour on the floor at the bakery created a tsunami effect.
Coming through the screen door, I fell to the right and then to the
left. It was the smell of bread and this little wonderloaf on the
cutting board that kept me aloft. After an experimental taste I had
steady myself once again. Plenty of flavor, nice gluten content making
it airy and soft with, then, the lovely bite of sourdough. Now, at least as of
this writing, a perfectly local bread can be eaten by all. Bread is the heart of everything whether the grain be corn or wheat. From the Mayans to the Europeans in one short, historical week in the Pioneer Valley.